Cracked heels refer to a condition produced by the occurrence of fissures in abnormally hard, dry skin over the heels (a padded cushion of fatty tissue around the heel bone) of your feet. The skin around your heels, which is unusually thick and dry is known as the callus.

Dry and cracked heels, apart from being uncomfortable and painful, can also become a major cause for embarrassment and may even lower your confidence. Not taking proper care of your feet can make them dry and rough, and walking around with cracked heels is a big no-no!

Cracked feet can be a result of dehydration, improper diet, and wearing the wrong kinds of footwear. Besides these, there are some medical conditions like dermatitis (skin inflammation), psoriasis (a condition characterized by red, itchy, and scaly patches on your skin), diabetes (presence of excess sugar in your blood), and thyroid abnormalities which leads to dryness of your feet. If left untreated, it may lead to deep painful cracks.

It is always advisable to start taking precautions before your heels start to crack deeply and eventually lead to pain and bleeding.

8 Ways to Keep Your Feet Healthy and Happy

If you have cracked heels, remember to: 

1. Avoid harsh soaps. Harsh soaps contain chemicals that dont just remove dirt and dust but also steal moisture from your skin. 

Additionally, harsh soaps that are heavily fragranced or contain strong chemicals can also dry out your skin. So it's always better to choose a gentle, fragrance-free mild soap or cleanser.     

2. Make foot scrubbing a daily ritual. Scrubbing your feet does not mean you indulge in vigorous scrubbing, whether you have healthy heels or dry and cracked heels. Vigorous scrubbing will further make your skin rough and dry and can worsen the condition. 

Scrubbing your cracked heels with a pumice stone is recommended. A pumice stone can also soften your calluses and reduce pain. 

You can use this stone daily, but it's important to use it correctly. If you're not careful, you can remove too much skin, and damage it, leading to bleeding, or an increased risk of infection. 

Consult your dermatologist before you pick a pumice stone to make sure it is the right one.

3. Use a good moisturizer. After scrubbing your feet, restore moisture with a thick moisturizer that preferably contains urea, salicylic acid, or alpha-hydroxy acids. You can use a moisturizer two to three times a day.

 You can also choose to go with certain homemade natural remedies, like:

  • Vegetable oil. After cleaning your feet with soap and water, massage 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on your feet to keep them supple and hydrated. Vegetable oils are loaded with nutrients that include vitamin A, D, and E, all of which can revamp the skin and heal your cracked heels by creating new cells.

  • Aloe vera gel or cream. Aloe vera has long been used as a home remedy to deal with dry skin. Aloe vera works by increasing collagen synthesis. The amino acids present in it help soften and heal your cracked skin.

    Your body naturally makes its own collagen (the most abundant protein in your body) by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids. The process of collagen synthesis occurs mainly in certain specialized cells that are responsible for synthesizing collagen.

  • Honey. It is a natural antiseptic that helps in healing cracked feet. It has soothing properties that help in the rejuvenation of your skin. Its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties help heal and cleanse wounds.

  • Petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly is a good way to restore moisture to cracked heels. Petroleum jellies provide a sealing barrier that locks in moisture to help rehydrate dry skin. It also helps protect heels against further dryness and cracking.

  • Coconut oil. Coconut oil contains essential fatty lipids (molecules such as fatty acids and their derivatives). These lipids improve the barrier function of the skin, allowing it to feel supple and hydrated.

  • A foot mask of lemon, glycerine, and rose water. Glycerine is a colorless and odourless carbon compound, which is extremely good for dry skin. When mixed with rose water and lemon juice, glycerine acts as a great moisturizer. 

    • Rosewater has phenyl ethanol, which acts as a natural astringent and also heals various skin disorders. 

    • Lemon juice has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help heal dead and cracked skin.

4. Use silicone gel heel socks or protectors. Socks with a silicone base are helpful for cracked heel repair. They are usually made of 80% nylon and 20% elastomeric yarn.

Silicone gel heel socks are a one-stop foot care solution for cracked, hard, and painful heels. These socks provide localized occlusion to the heels and help in the absorption of the moisturizing cream. They also reduce the friction component of the heels and help to keep the cracks and callus away. 

You can also use cotton socks. Cotton socks let your skin breathe and sweat freely, unlike synthetic socks. Synthetic socks can irritate the skin and make them dry. Cotton socks also protect the heels from dust.      

5. Wear proper footwear. Open and backless footwear look beautiful but as they provide no support to your heels, the heels are exposed to more dust and friction. On the contrary, closed footwear prevents dryness and cracked heels. 

Gel soles or inner socks are also widely available in the market, which gives better support to your feet. Therefore, avoid using footwear with no heel cups like flip-flops; since they add mechanical stress on your heels, thus allowing for more callus formation and drying of heels.      

6. Try crack repair creams. For deep cracks, it is always better to apply a crack repair cream or urea-based cream, after consulting with your dermatologist. 

Crack repair creams actively repair severely dry and cracked skin. They are known to activate your natural skin regeneration to restore smooth and healthy skin, without leaving a burning effect on the skin.

Sometimes, antibiotic creams (formulations that destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria) are also required for deep bleeding cracks, to prevent further infections.      

7. Prescription medications for cracked heels due to other medical conditions. Certain medical ailments such as vitamin deficiency, psoriasis, atopy (genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases), and thyroid abnormalities (dysfunction) can lead to dry skin and cracked heels. 

These conditions, if left untreated, can lead to superimposing infection, bleeding, or ulcers. To fight cracked heels as a result of these conditions, consult your dermatologist before self-medicating. 

8. Follow overnight everyday care. Before going to bed, soak your feet in lukewarm water for about 10-20 minutes to make the skin soft, apply a moisturizing cream or petroleum jelly and leave it overnight. 

This overnight skin care routine will fasten the process of healing cracked heels. You can also put on some dry and comfy socks and let your cream soak into your skin while you are asleep. 

Keeping on top of your everyday skin care is a great way to help protect your heels. Cracked heels are definitely a pain, but with some extra effort and care, you can get them cleared up in no time. 

Remember to stay hydrated, avoid long hot-water showers, avoid vigorous scrubbing of your heels and wear covered footwear, to prevent cracked and dry heels.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.